Ja’Wuan James files grievance against Broncos seeking $15 million

BRONCOS VS COLTS
Getty Images

The Broncos have moved on from Ja’Wuan James, but the Broncos are still going to be dealing with Ja’Wuan James.

The Broncos recently released the veteran tackle, a first-round pick of the Dolphins in 2014 and free-agent arrival in Denver in 2019, after he suffered what the team considered to be a non-football injury while working out away from the team facility. James believes his injury qualifies as a football injury.

“Claimant was not working out on his own,” James alleges at paragraph 5 of his grievance, which was filed earlier this morning and a copy of which PFT has obtained. “Claimant was working out as expressly and/or impliedly authorized and/or instructed by Respondent’s agents, including but not limited to the instructions and/or direction of the coach of Respondent and/or other agents of Respondent. Claimant was working out with other players on the team at the facility and mentoring younger players as requested and/or expressly and/or impliedly authorized by Respondent through its agent and/or agents.”

Citing “information and belief” (a lawyer’s way of saying “we don’t know this but we think it’s true and we intend to find out if it is”), James claims that the Broncos’ facilities were not in compliance with relevant Colorado COVID-19 guidelines. James opted out of the 2020 season over COVID-19 concerns.

The argument is simple. Even though James wasn’t working out at the team facility, he was working out in a manner “specifically authorized” by the club, and not by himself but with other teammates, partially in a teaching capacity.

“[T]he intent and purpose behind the NFI designation — a highly controversial provision found in Article 20 of the CBA that was requested by the NFL in contested CBA negotiations — would not be served by designating the injury here as an NFI,” the James grievance contends at paragraph 15. “The purported historical purpose of an NFI designation is for protection against reckless and improper off-field player conduct. The intent was and is not to retaliate against veteran players (or any player) like Claimant during a global pandemic who are injured in the course and scope of employment when training for their Club and/or with the guidance and/or knowledge from the Club. A disturbing and dangerous precedent would be set by embracing such an interpretation that completely disregards player safety and basic dignity.”

James, who seeks recovery of his $10 million salary for 2021 (guaranteed for skill, injury, and salary cap) and his $5 million salary for 2022 (guaranteed for injury), is represented by Mark Geragos and Ben Meiselas, along with Jason Setchen of Miami. Geragos and Meiselas previously represented Colin Kaepernick in his collusion grievance against the NFL. And while the James grievance does not currently allege collusion, there’s a strong hint of a potential collusion claim to come.

At paragraph 10, the James grievance points to the May 5, 2021 memo from the NFL to all teams regarding the James situation. The memo, issued directly in response to the James injury, said that “injuries sustained while a player is working out ‘on his own’ in a location other than an NFL facility are considered ‘non-football injuries’ and are outside the scope of typical skill, injury and cap guarantee. . . By contrast, injuries sustained by a player while working out at a club facility or as specifically or as specifically authorized by his club are considered ‘football-related injuries.'” Two days later, the Broncos placed James on the reserve/non-football injury list. One week later, the Broncos cut James.

Based on paragraph 17 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, James could be planning to argue that the Broncos acted at the behest of the NFL. For James, proof of collusion would entitle him to a doubling of his compensatory damages, pushing the potential value of the grievance to $30 million. (Under certain circumstances, proof of collusion also can justify early termination of the CBA. Without getting into the specific language of the CBA on that point, it seems clear that those circumstances don’t exist here.)

The Broncos will have a right to respond to the grievance, and to defend it vigorously. Undoubtedly, the Broncos will claim that James was told that any workouts away from the team facility occurred on a strictly voluntary basis, and that James specifically was told that the team is not responsible for any injuries occurring away from team premises.

40 responses to “Ja’Wuan James files grievance against Broncos seeking $15 million

  1. Imagine being this clueless. I almost feel bad for the guy. Obviously nobody ever explained to him how unions work while taking his union dues. Did he ask for any of that back?

  2. You took a huge risk James and now you pay for it. Warranty for a product does not apply if you intentionally or unintentionally break it using a hammer. I feel for you though because of the huge huge money involved. It’s a life changing amount even for the richest of people let alone common folks and athletes like you

  3. My initial reaction to this was he has no chance of winning but when I read the section below, I have to say I agree with the point they are making and think this will get settled with him getting most if not all of the 15 million.

    The intent was and is not to retaliate against veteran players (or any player) like Claimant during a global pandemic who are injured in the course and scope of employment when training for their Club and/or with the guidance and/or knowledge from the Club. A disturbing and dangerous precedent would be set by embracing such an interpretation that completely disregards player safety and basic dignity.”

  4. The NFL clearly wanted this event to become a clear signal to players that they will play hardball and will fight any claim arising from an injury occurring offsite and I think it’s easy to come to the conclusion that the NFL was passing a message to the Broncos and all players with the released memo. The NFL thinks it’s making a wise decision in doing so in light of players starting to have more and more leverage over the league. This is not good for the NFL. What this does is gives players another bullet point to include in any CBA negotiations. Instead of costing the Broncos $15M, this may cost the collective ownership of the NFL hundreds of millions of dollars as the players certainly will fight for these claims to be considered football injuries in upcoming negotiations. The league does not have the leverage it thinks it does.

  5. Good. Sometimes we the fans and the NFL forget there are people behinds those mask, not some chess piece on board that can be discarded when they don’t fit anymore.

  6. Was the claimant working out at team facilities? No.
    Was the claimant working under the direct supervision of team staff? No.
    Did you stop working out at the team facilities, which the team requested you use, at the request of your union? Yes.
    Does the CBA explicitly state that injuries incurred away from team facilities and away from direct supervision of the team are at the sole risk of the claimant? Yes.
    Did the team notify you, when notified that you would no longer be using their facilities, that you were not covered for injury away from team facilities? Yes.

    Next case.

    It’s throw mud against the wall time to see if the PR fallout can shake a few coins loose from the teams pockets. If anyone, the union should be the one being sued here, but we all know the union will never take responsibility for it’s actions. The union represents the Tom Brady’s and Aaron Rodgers of the league, not the rank and file. The problem is that every player thinks they are the next Tom Brady and will screw themselves today for a fantasy windfall down the road.

  7. jake6879 says:
    June 7, 2021 at 9:01 am
    The NFL clearly wanted this event to become a clear signal to players that they will play hardball and will fight any claim arising from an injury occurring offsite and I think it’s easy to come to the conclusion that the NFL was passing a message to the Broncos and all players with the released memo. The NFL thinks it’s making a wise decision in doing so in light of players starting to have more and more leverage over the league. This is not good for the NFL. What this does is gives players another bullet point to include in any CBA negotiations. Instead of costing the Broncos $15M, this may cost the collective ownership of the NFL hundreds of millions of dollars as the players certainly will fight for these claims to be considered football injuries in upcoming negotiations. The league does not have the leverage it thinks it does.

    ———————————

    Lol. So what is your proposal that the NFL becomes more like MLB? Oh god would that be horrible. The MLB can’t discipline players for rules that are already on their rulebooks let alone address any new issues that come up. Have you been following the MLB league wide pitching scandal?

    Manfred can’t do anything without the union’s approval and the union doesn’t care if cheating hurts 3/4ths of the players because it benefits the 1/4 who are the most influential.

    How many players got disciplined for the years long Astros world series cheating scandal? Management took all the penalties. It is why baseball is a joke.

    The players need some accountability.

  8. I just need to know, is “impliedly authorized” an accepted legal term? Is it basically just a term meant to make people liable when they shouldn’t be? “Well, no one ever SAID I should go work out on my own. But when I heard the team say don’t work out on your own, I thought they were clearly implying I really should go work out on my own.. so I mean, they basically authorized it”

  9. ake6879 says:
    June 7, 2021 at 9:01 am
    The NFL clearly wanted this event to become a clear signal to players that they will play hardball and will fight any claim arising from an injury occurring offsite and I think it’s easy to come to the conclusion that the NFL was passing a message to the Broncos and all players with the released memo. The NFL thinks it’s making a wise decision in doing so in light of players starting to have more and more leverage over the league. This is not good for the NFL. What this does is gives players another bullet point to include in any CBA negotiations. Instead of costing the Broncos $15M, this may cost the collective ownership of the NFL hundreds of millions of dollars as the players certainly will fight for these claims to be considered football injuries in upcoming negotiations. The league does not have the leverage it thinks it does.
    —————————————————————————————————
    I suppose you think this is not mentioned in any contract, or the CBA.

  10. If your going to file a lawsuit then file it against your union. They told you to work out on your own knowing full well there are injury clauses working out away from team facilities. Unless the union didn’t, which wouldn’t shock me

  11. Demaurice Smith and his strategy to try to make up for his blunders by suing the NFL has zero wins. This case is going to continue that trend.

    Players, fire your idiot union heads (DeMaurice Smith and JC Tretter) who’s policy that everything *MUST* a fight against the NFL then they routinely get their behinds handed to them. They’re more concerned with saving their positions than representing players.

  12. Working as a Plant Mgr, several times a year I had employees try to say they were injured on company property to try and collect Workman’s Comp. We had black and blue broken arms that were obviously broken over the weekend. We even had someone claim a broken toe. When he went to the hospital and they discovered he had ghout. James is not the first and won’t be the last to try and claim a not at work injury as an at work injury. The ” Sanctity of the Collective Bargaining Agreement” will prevail in court. Courts assume that you knew what you were signing and will not get involved

  13. Commentator1234, I don’t know about the specific term there but the concept of implied authorization is certainly a legal one.

  14. He was warned in an official mail. I hope the company sent it with some sort of traceability. As arcross12042004scorp15 comments, non workplace injuries are non workplace injuries and there are thousands of precedents. I expect this to be quickly handled.

    It sucks for the player. Players should demand 24/7/365 access to the facility. If the company declines, *THEN* they have a grievance. As it stands now, Ja’wan has got nothing.

  15. Keep listening to DeMaurice Smith. Just SMH. The Broncos and the league will win this one.

  16. I thought he was both working out at the team facility and working out at home?

  17. Everyone keeps talking about “working out” away from the team, what he is contending is this clause has nothing to do with workouts. It is intended for guys that do risky stuff and end up injured.

    They are professional athletes, of course they have to workout. Why would it matter where?

  18. I would say this lawsuit is a waste of time & energy as it is clearly obvious that the player is in the wrong….. HOWEVER, the way things get resolved in the court system these days has left me in shock on many of their conclusions/decisions….. so, let’s just see how this plays out because obvious is irrelevant these days!!!

  19. Probably should have worked out at the teams facility there bud. If you don’t want to live in Denver and want to stay in South Beach…DONT SIGN ELSEWHERE.

  20. It’d be fascinating to see how the union responded to a lawsuit since it would look horrific for them to argue in court that their advice is totally untrustworthy and that players should know to ignore it. Maybe players need a second union to deal with the original union.

  21. I have not found a definition anywhere for the term, implied “authorization.”

    There is a definition for “implied authority,” that being: “Implied authority refers to an agent with the jurisdiction to perform acts that are reasonably necessary to accomplish the purpose of an organization. Under contract law, implied authority figures have the ability to make a legally binding contract on behalf of another person or company.”

    In other words, implied authority is more an issue of whether an “agent” has the authority, with respect to third persons, to bind their principal to a contract. It has nothing to do with this situation. Further, “acts reasonably necessary to accomplish the purpose of an organization” would, if anything, refer to working out at a team facility, not honoring a union push to avoid workouts at a team facility.

  22. I mean, if he really wants money, why is he not suing the union? I get filing a grievance against the team, even though if common sense prevails he won’t get anything from them. but he got bad advice from his union and where are they now? IMO, @arcross12042004scorp15 hit the nail on the head .
    Regardless of the amount of money, this is just another case of someone trying to claim an injury on the job when they weren’t actually on the job.

  23. “What this does is gives players another bullet point to include in any CBA negotiations.”
    ___________

    You mean the same negotiations that resulted in the current CBA that the union agreed to and that just cost James all this money? I’m sure the league is quaking in their boots given how they totally took the union to the cleaners in the last CBA.

  24. He should be suing the NFLPA. When this suit gets tossed out (as it should) I bet that’s exactly what he does.

  25. James has no heart. He has stolen millions already from the Broncos. Dude just needs to take his millions and just go away.

  26. The owners will settle they don’t want this to go litigation it will be a no-win situation win or lose. Win then players stop working out or have contracts where the teams provides strength and condition coaches for every players if they don’t live full-time in their city; very few players actually stay the winter in places like GB, KC or Buffalo. Lose they have to pay and set the precedent then the courts will decide on the activity.

    The deciding factor will be if Ja’Waun was following the directions of the strength and condition coach (or any other coach) and if his work-out place was also approved i.e. not alone at home but at a gym with proper staffing. Mainly because most contracts have a clause that the player must be in condition when reporting to practice.

  27. hntr2506 says:
    June 7, 2021 at 10:11 am
    Everyone keeps talking about “working out” away from the team, what he is contending is this clause has nothing to do with workouts. It is intended for guys that do risky stuff and end up injured.

    They are professional athletes, of course they have to workout. Why would it matter where?
    ____________

    How does anyone know what the guy was doing when he got injured? He could have been playing basketball or rock climbing. The only thing we do know is that the injury wasn’t suffered at the only place it would be covered – the Broncos training facility.

  28. The grievance is full of smoke and mirrors. If James left the facility due to COVID-19 concerns, why not bring up those concerns immediately? He left at the direction of the NFLPA because of peer pressure. Its unfortunate that he got injured, but unless the Broncos forced him to leave, I can’t see how he has a leg to stand on.

  29. What a bum! I’ve never been on the Broncos roster and I’ve only played 2 less games than him. Where’s my 15 million?

  30. I mean look it is open and shut case he was working out away from the team facility I mean if it was Rodgers Mahomes any star qb they would still get paid but the NFL is proving a point here I mean it just shows star players get treated differently its life

  31. Open and shut case here. The team said dont do it, you did now they cut you. The End. Not getting a penny from teh Bronco’s

  32. Since the James injury happened there have been a good number of reports about star players working out away from team facilities. I haven’t seen any sanctimonious posts about how they shouldn’t be doing that, how they’re breaking the rules, etc.

    If Russell Wilson got hurt during these workouts, would Seattle cut him, and would he be shamed “with no sympathy” by commenters? James’ injury history and opt-out of the 2020 season should have no bearing on how the Broncos handled this situation, but it seems clear that the NFL dictated that he should be cut.

    Players *obviously* do not only work out at the team facilities. So why is James being
    treated like the bad guy? I mean, seriously, some of you act like he stole your lunch money. He didn’t crash his motorcycle in a parking lot or get hurt playing basketball. The union clearly blundered this in telling players to stay away from OTAs, but the NFL and the Broncos haven’t handled this well, either.

  33. If this doesn’t work and he doesn’t get signed by anyone, the NFLPA may be next. And a $15 million lawsuit isn’t a great incentive to get signed by anyone else.

  34. If those workouts at the facility are explicit voluntarily, why is forbidden to work out somewhere else?

  35. It will come down to whether the team did authorize or encourage the workouts away from the facility. You can’t ask a guy to work out on his own during covid rules and then about face when he gets hurt. We’ll see.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.